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March 12, 2019

Eating Disorders are Color Blind: Listening, Correcting Imbalances, and Offering Hope – Part II

Lady sitting on bench dealing with microaggressions

This is Part 2 of this 5-part series where Chief Executive Officer of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Claire Mysko, is speaking with Dr. Mazella Fuller and Karla Mosley on their individual experiences as African-American women in the eating disorder community and about microaggressions.

Claire: Dr. Fuller, you mentioned that, when you got into this field, that there is a lack of people of color in the field and a lack of encouragement on that front because it is so important. How do you feel we can help to encourage that and how do you feel that can be accomplished?

Dr. Fuller: Well, I want to share an example for myself, to begin. I am currently working with a colleague, Dr. Charlene Small at the University of Richmond, to write a book on black women and eating disorders which will be released in Spring or Fall of 2019.

We are both certified eating disorder specialists and co-chairs of African-American Eating Disorders Professionals, which has given us a great platform to develop and mentor young, black eating disorder professionals.

I would send that charge to NEDA, other organizations, and outpatient or inpatient treatment centers to create a pipeline for providers of color and, specifically, black providers.

We started this committee three years ago and are proud to say that, under our tutelage and mentorship, we have supported new, black providers in the field of eating disorders with some of them even getting their certifications.

That is just one way, but, there are many ways to have this conversation such as inviting someone different from yourself to talk to clients and assess. We are all free to make these changes and get help from one another in making small moves toward change.

Karla: I think it is interesting, too, the idea of moving in small doses and tackling one small thing at a time, just as we would in recovery. It can seem really daunting to completely change the face of the way that we’ve been dealing with recovery and move it toward inclusivity.

It doesn’t have to start with large groups, but, four people, for example, teaching four more people, etc. and taking small action steps every day, every quarter, every year can bring about change.

Holding one another, and ourselves, accountable for these small steps, eventually, will lead to significant change.

Young woman speaking about her binge eating disorderClaire: Absolutely. I also want to talk a bit about something Dr. Fuller alluded to earlier – the stressors and historical components. In relation to this, the term “microaggressions” comes up a lot, can both of you expand on this?

Dr. Fuller: Of course. I’m at Duke University right now, you know, surrounded by brilliant students, everybody is so smart, not just one population or race, everybody.

Students are quite sophisticated in talking about microaggressions and often like first to discuss slights before full-on microaggressions.

They don’t have people that look like them sitting at the table, and you have not invited conversations to go out and learn what they might need, so, there are already slights there.

Then, they may think, no one looks like me, I’m the only one that looks like me in the department or getting Ph.D., I raise my hand and offer a contribution, but I’m not chosen. They question, are these slights or microaggressions or people being overwhelmed. Is it a pattern?

As a professional, I experience what feels like thousands of slights every day, and some, I know, are not intentional while others are clear they are very intentional. I encourage all of us, to be held accountable and remain ethical in our practice as well as ethical in our hearts as human, to encourage cultural competency training.

The bottom line is, we all have to do our own work in this area.

Karla: Yes, it is interesting, thinking about microaggressions, there are several scenarios it can occur in, but the two I’m thinking of right is in the training and hiring of people of color to be clinicians and then, also, in the treatment.

There are certainly microaggressions that exist in encouraging people to study and then, as they are going through their training between professor and potential clinician. Then, also, without proper interest and an open space to discuss these things.

woman with headache, migraine, stress, insomnia, hangover, asian caucasian indoor scene

If there is a difference in cultural background between the clinician and the person receiving treatment, there needs to be space and acknowledgment that that is part of the conversation so that, if someone feels a microaggression.

For me, it took me a long time to realize that certain things that were happening were microaggressions.

If a clinician is trained in being able to explain what those things are and acknowledging that they might, without knowing, be committing these microaggressions, it opens up the possibility of teasing that apart, exploring it, talking about it.

I think that, for the person receiving treatment, it might open up things within the room, within their treatment, and within the world that can help them to reconcile things that might trigger them from a societal place.

I can say, for myself, there were things happening on a societal level that was out of my control that, because of the way my eating disorder worked, I took personally. I thought it was something I was doing wrong. Later in life, I realized that person wasn’t, say, not asking me out or not flirting with me or rejecting me because of my skin color.

Please See:

Eating Disorders are Color Blind: Listening, Correcting Imbalances, and Offering Hope – Part 1
Eating Disorders are Color Blind: Listening, Correcting Imbalances, and Offering Hope – Part 3
Eating Disorders are Color Blind: Listening, Correcting Imbalances, and Offering Hope – Part 4
Eating Disorders are Color Blind: Listening, Correcting Imbalances, and Offering Hope – Part 5


Source:

Virtual Presentation by Claire Mysko, MA, Karla Mosley, and Dr. Mazella Fuller in the December 8, 2018, Eating Disorder Hope Virtual Conference III: Blasting Through Bias: A Deep Dive into Underserved Populations and Global Issues 2018

Please visit the Virtual Conference page for other presentations.


Authors:

Claire Mysko

Claire Mysko, MA is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and an internationally recognized expert on eating disorders, body image, and media literacy. She is the author of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby (2009) and You’re Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self (2008) an award-winning self-esteem manual for girls.

Mysko previously served as NEDA’s Chief Operating Officer, Director of Programs, and as a consultant on Proud2Bme and Proud2BMe On Campus, NEDA’s youth platforms. Prior to joining NEDA, she served as the director of the American Anorexia Bulimia Association and spearheaded the development of pioneering online communities at Girls Inc. and SmartGirl.

During her tenure at NEDA, Mysko has overseen a rapid expansion in both reach and programs, including the implementation of an evidence-based eating disorders prevention program in New York City schools, initiatives to bust prevailing myths about eating disorders, and the cultivation of key relationships with companies including Aerie, Crisis Text Line, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Learn More About Claire Mysko

Karla Mosley – Bio not provided

Dr. Mazella Fuller – Bio not provided


Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Transcript Editor: Margot Rittenhouse, MS, NCC, PLPC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 12, 2019.
Reviewed & Approved on March 12, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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